The new temporary era of Freddie Ljungberg starts today and I have to be absolutely honest… I am VERY excited.
He’s making smart moves, Per Mertesacker is his assistant, he might be bringing Gilberto in for a helping hand, and he told the Arsenal.com team he was all about putting smiles back on the faces of players.
Freddie has gone on the record as saying he thinks players are happier when they’re playing exciting football, we know he was raised on some of most explosive attacking football the world has ever seen, so maybe we’re about to witness Wengerball 2.0.
He has the opportunity to make a claim for the job, to do well, he’s going to have thread the needle of some very tricky situations with the players and the football. Here are some items he’ll be looking to clarify.
The Xhaka thing:
There will be a blank slate for Granit Xhaka. It’ll be very interesting to see how a man with a more attacking vision sees the Swiss. A lot of the ‘he’s highly rated from within’ leaves me aghast. It doesn’t make sense that a player with so little discipline and so many errors in his game could be seen as this absolute essential to the team… but I guess we’ll find out. If he’s in the side, what is he doing and how are they going to protect the team against his bad habits?
Freddie likes high octane pressing. So did Wenger and Emery. No one can keep it going for longer than 3 games. How will Freddie discipline the team to press consistently, or at least in strategic moments during the game? There are big question marks as to whether his first-team forwards are even capable of this. Is Auba going to turn into that sort of player at 29? Does Lacazette have the stamina to do that? Or might the coach pull a wild card and start his younger players. He’s far more likely to get the sort of behaviour he wants our of Saka and Martinelli.
Our very one-footed wide man has looked pretty poor most of the season. It’s hard to move into a tough situation and perform and he certainly hasn’t managed to raise his game. He looks shot of all confidence, but maybe a new coach with a more exciting vision could spark something in him that we haven’t seen yet. He’s certainly not a bad player. If Conte could get Victor Moses firing, then there is hope for Pepe.
Our short game from the keeper has been slow, ineffective and quite frankly embarrassing. We struggle to transition out of defence most of the time, then if the ball makes into midfield, the gaps between the attack are monstrous. Freddie is going to have to get in the weeds with some real basics here, because we don’t move the ball through the phases with any sort of consistency. How is Freddie going to look at this problem, will he go more direct? Will he shorten the passing lanes? Will he bin the short passes out the back? I’m very interested to see how quickly he can impact the way we move the ball. I’m also hoping that we start playing through the middle again with some exciting one-touch combination passing.
The same in reverse. We often have no real shape when we’re hit on the counter-attack or even just under sustained pressure. Midfield is our biggest problem, the two deepest players, whoever they are, offer very little protection to the defence, either by taking up positions that are too deep, or just not being present in the right places. We do not defend as a unit, it’s a lot to expect in a few games, but it’d be nice to see some thinking go into action there.
It’s not really worth hitting you with the management stuff because it’s all very early stages, but I think one thing is clear from listening to Josh K, they will be overjoyed if Freddie can take things until the end of the season. Better choices will be on the market then and Edu, Huss, Raul and Vinnai can take their time over a decision.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, there really is no plan on the manager and we’re accruing a shortlist now because no one was thinking about exiting Emery this season. A staggering oversight when you consider that a proper club would have booted Emery in the summer. The football was quite clearly going nowhere, all the data pointed to total regression, and behind the scenes things were just as dire. Zero control. The bus driver running team motivation talks perfectly captured the managers’ approach. My point here, even if you truly believed in miracles, you’d at least get a backup list of names just in case.
The more worrying point for me about the shortlist that’s emerging is there’s no rhyme or reason to the candidates that we’re looking at. Nuno is a counter-attacking specialist that doesn’t believe in pointless possession. Allegri is the ultimate ‘get the job done’ pragmatist that builds systems around the tools he has at his disposal. Brendan Rodgers is a high pressing possession-based practitioner. Arteta will be Manchester City like entertaining possession-based attacking football. There’s no theme here, which likely means Edu doesn’t have a plan that he’s executing against.
If the club doesn’t know what it wants to be, how are they judging candidates? Your strategy can’t be a manager, because if that’s the case, your costs are huge every time you hire in a new philosophy. Chelsea, up until lately, always had deeply pragmatic managers that played a certain way. AVB, Conte, Mourinho are all cut from the same cloth. Barcelona always hire in specialists in of attacking based possession football because that’s their DNA, but beyond that, those values Cruyff instilled give the club stability. Every layer of the club believes the same thing. Every coach plays the same way. The scouting network knows what they are looking for. The fitness coaches know how to plan.
There’s a lot of talk about The Arsenal Way and whether that exists. It doesn’t. Edu is supposed to define what that is so we can build out talent that maps to the vision. My view is we should be a youthful execution of high octane pressing and intelligent possession-based football. We should be the most exciting team to watch in the world. We will never compete at the higher levels for elite adult talent, so we’ll have to grow it, or attract players like Martinelli and Guendouzi and ask them to give the first part of their careers to Arsenal. Young players need minutes and elite coaching. If we set a clear vision, it’d give clear parameters on the type of coach we need. It wouldn also focus what you’re looking for.
- Someone open to a longer-term project
- A manager happy to work on a budget
- Someone who can work with data analysts and support staff
- A person that can galvanise, not divide a backroom and a squad
- A clear communicator
- Someone that loves coaching
- Has a clear-eyed vision of where the game is going and how to keep up
- Someone with patience, because they’d be working with younger kids
- Someone with examples of how they’ve developed players
- A vision of how to implement a pressing regime
- A view of football that’s exciting
It would dictate the sort of fitness approach we’d need, it’d give the scouts a very clear brief for who and where they should be looking for talent, and it’d be a clear message to the fans… this project is not for now, we are building out Arsenal to be a Champions League final four outfit in 5 years. Bear with us, this is going to be spectacular.
The ‘cast the net wide’ and see what we like approach isn’t purposeful. When you don’t know what you’re looking for, you can be easily seduced by cheap Powerpoint presentations, great Wikipedia pages, and the sweet charms of Raul who can definitely vouch. We are better than that. I hope as the club push on in this process they get a little more specific about what they want, because a warm body won’t cut it. Not for the next hire.
One managerial story that I do find amusing is the Brendan Rodgers one. We all know he’d be desperate to move to a top club again. He’s doing a great job at Leicester, a club I feel is his level… but my point of raising this particular story is that he’s on the back page of one of the red tops with a headline alluding to Arsenal being his dream job. That is poor judgement to let anyone go off the record for you in such a blatant way. I wonder if that’ll impact the focus of his players, it looks very much like the mistake Marco Silva made when he was desperate for the Everton job despite being under contract at Watford. Didn’t end well there. Confidence is fragile at a football club, if the players think you’re purring over another job, things can go south very quickly.
Anyway, a huge day for Freddie, Per Mertesacker and the fans. I cannot wait to see what the sexiest man in management has to offer us.
Right, jump into our podcast before the game, it’s a cracker. We talk about Raul, managers, problems with Emery and our favourite targets. You can bypass the cost by giving it a 5* in iTunes.
See you in the comments!